I was raised with dogs, around dogs, around lovers of dogs. Cats were the enemy when I was a child.
Our first dog was a Scottish Terrier, who was five when I came into the world and died of a collapsed liver the night of my first or second grade play. We up-sized after Heather passed away, getting a black Great Dane named Samantha; most mornings, my father would find me curled up with Sam in the utility room. She was a behemoth, and when she wasn't dragging me around the backyard by my pants leg, she was digging craters in my mother's flower garden. I came home one afternoon to see Sam staring out the window of a strange car driving away from our house. Not long after, my dad followed suit (though I think those plans contributed to Sam's departure, not the other way around).
We migrated to strays after Sam left -- my oldest sister dragged mixed breeds to our doorstep whenever possible, it seemed. Actually, it happened twice (practice for the 300 dogs she's rescued since then). When I went to college, I periodically thought about getting a dog but my school, work and social schedules always seemed to interfere. A few stray mutts floated through my life during those years -- Thorin, the yellow lab I found wandering the streets of the Fan with bloodied feet; Emma and Allison, the wriggling black labs owned by an old girlfriend's parents; Soupy, the lethargic hound who lived beneath me one year and with me the next.
And so I've spent the last 20 years trying to decide when and if to get a dog. It also happens that cats started to become part of the equation during this time.
It started with four Siamese, who weighed a collective 60 pounds and slept on and around me at an old girlfriend's apartment. I actually grew to love those four thick cats. And there was Baby Kitty, the black Manx with no tail -- I came home late on summer night, half-drunk and half-asphyxiated by the heat, to find a fully shaven Baby Kitty staring placidly at me from her chair. My own father, enemy of cats everywhere, was seen petting my stepmother's cats. And, finally, there are the current co-occupants of our house -- Simon, the docile and litterbox- challenged grey, and Harvey, the somewhat scattered yet adorable white-and-black cat (below).
Simon and Harvey are not happy with us this week. Of course, after three days with the precociously high-maintenance ball of fur we are calling "Rilo," (pictured below) I'm not so happy with us either. Puppies do several things, none of them attractive. They pee, poop, bark and jump. Rilo is expert in all of these activities, but she currently practices using behaviors that aren't exactly welcome in our house. I miss sleep, and on a week where the weather is full-blown spring and I am off work, I also miss being free to go when and where I want.
And so we arrive, exactly 39 years into my life, to the place where I am beginning to peel away another layer of the onion. I have become a cat person.